Lisa M. Cole

thumbnailNegotiating with Objects (Sundress Publications, 2013)

Interviewed by Abby Bryan and Karen Chambless

Which poet has influenced your work the most?

Louise Gluck, Frank O’Hara, and Emily Dickinson.

Did you write these poems with the vision of a full collection in mind, and if so, what was that specific vision?

I wrote these poems after I took a workshop at the University of Arizona Poetry Center called “Oracular Writing” taught by Annie Guthrie. The basic idea of the class is that as artists, we are writing all the time, no matter what we are doing. We looked at our work and helped others with their writing by asking questions whenever possible and removing judgment from consideration of our work. The class really opened my mind and gave me so many ideas for my poems.

Why the repeated “afters” as a unifying theme for the poems in Negotiating with Objects?

I wanted something that tied the poems together; I wanted the poems to be a chapbook after I started writing, and I felt the “afters” provided a kind of cohesion for the book.

How was the title-creating process different for Negotiating with Objects than for your other collections?

I had never worked on a project before where I was able to see the connecting threads while writing. The “afters” came as I was writing the poems, rather than during the editing process.

Negotiating with Objects includes many poems sectionalized with Roman numerals. What does this form offer for you as a poet?

I feel like the roman numerals give the poems room to breathe. The root of the word “stanza” is “room”, but I think the roman numerals let the poems step into an even larger room than just a stanza break would allow.

You play with language and metaphor in surprising and attention-grabbing ways in Negotiating with Objects. How does your use of language contribute to your overall vision for these poems as a whole?

I have a line in a recent poem “When will these words eclipse thought; the translation of it?” For me, language very often eclipses thought. Language (at the level of the word) is where poems start for me.

You mention “unyearning” in both “After the Mothering” and in your dedications. What does this phrase mean to you?

“Unyearning” is a word meant to encompass the relief that comes from getting what you want. But there is still this underlying discomfort or pain at the thought of losing that relief; of going back to just yearning again.

What was the revision process like for you in this chapbook? Is the process similar for all of your poetry?

I try not to focus too much on revision, actually. I want my poems to feel organic; natural; fresh, and I think the best way to do this is to let the poems come as they want to come. I may change a word or a phrase or a line or two here and there, but for the most part, the poems remain untouched after I write them. I do, however, ask for feedback from a few trusted readers; they give me ideas for expansion and ways that I might continue writing.

You have written many chapbooks as well as two poetry collections. How is the writing and assembly process different or similar between chapbook and full-length collection writing?

For me, a lot of the time, full length books arise out of smaller projects like chapbooks weaving themselves together.

How do you feel about writing contests?

I love them! And I have won a few of them too!

How do you negotiate the tricky business of promoting your own work?

Social media is a great tool, and I am actually a Social Media Coordinator for a fellow artist, Monica Zavala Durazo.

Was your entrance into the world of creative writing something that happened slowly or all at once?

I’ve wanted to be a poet since I was very young. I have always and will always experience the world through poetry. It is how I interact with and exist in the world.

Are you interested in any other forms of art besides creative writing?

Very much so! I do digital art, photography, digital manipulation, fabric art and loom knitting, and some drawing. I adore art of all kinds.

If you could give any advice to your past poet self, what would it be?

“Have more faith in yourself, Lisa. Listen to your own voice, and don’t let what other people do, or say, or think, define who you are.”

If you started a conversation with someone on an airplane and you mentioned that you were a poet and they asked you what Negotiating with Objects was about, what would you say?

I would mention what we talked about earlier; the concept of “unyearning” and all that entails.

What ideas or impressions do you hope readers carry with them after encountering the poems in Negotiating with Objects?

I want my readers to be affected on both an emotional and a cognitive level. I don’t want to tell them what they might think or feel as long as the work touches them in some way.


Lisa M. Cole is the author of the poetry collections Heart Full of Tinders and Dreams of the Living, both titles forthcoming from ELJ publications. Lisa has also written seven chapbooks; most recently The Bodyscape from Dancing Girl Press; the forthcoming The Love Machine from Yellow Flag Press, and Living in a Lonely House from Dancing Girl Press.




Sometimes happiness is a blind date
who doesn’t arrive for years.

His spade foot dragging
glass when he finally shows up
at your table. He’s a little
drunk on wine, saying he lost
his way, & he stumbles
twice as he leaves
again after only one meal.

(from Living in a Lonely House)


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